This is another post of my How I Write series. In a previous post, I detailed how I outlined Cassidy’s story and showed how much space was left to be filled. Today, I talk about how I turn the outline into a draft.
My outline doesn’t necessarily describe a scene. Sometimes I only know the information I have to reveal in that chapter but finding the “where” and “how” is part of the writing process. Other times, I’ll know the “where” and “who” but not the “what”. Writing a chapter of Cassidy, though they are all identical in their 1,000 words format, is not a magic recipe to fill in the same blank spot every time. It’s a process and it starts by cradling my derriere in a chair in front of my computer. No secrets there.
I’m grown used to Cassidy’s format of a 1,000 words. As my fingers rest on the keyboard and the outline floats around in my head, I already know how I want the scene to begin and end, even if it wasn’t in the outline. That’s like magic: I sit down and boom! beginning and end. My brain knows the drill. That’s what happens when you write consistently. The brain is a muscle and it needs training. Train it long enough, it begins to know the circuit and work it without you noticing. No secrets there either; your glutes are the same.
The other thing that isn’t a secret is that you have to start typing! Once I know the beginning, I don’t try to figure out the rest. I don’t obsess over what I need to put in the chapter. I start typing. I wing it. If my outline is broken down in manageable bites, it lingers in my mind and it finds its way into my chapter by itself. Most often than not, other things find their way too; fleshing out the world or the characters, foreshadowing a plot point that will come later, etc. It contributes to make the chapter richer. It also leaves space for my character to surprise me.
Sometimes, the outline changes little bit in order to agree with the more natural flow of information. It rarely diverge so much that I have to change the rest of the book. I might shuffle a couple of post-its around and trash one to put in a new one. It’s never so huge that my flexible and open outline cannot agree with it. In every case, it strengthens my story.
How did Cassidy and Casey end up flirting? Because I winged it. Their relationship was supposed to have the dynamic Casey and Rebecca have. No kidding.
How did Aaron end up with flowers wilting on his desk to symbolize Cassidy’s disappointment? Because I winged it. Cassidy didn’t happen to pick up her flowers before she left the office.
How did Ryan appeared in the interrogation room and became the bad guy in the next foreshadowing? Because I? Yeah, I think you got it.
What I’m hammering here is that though I make an outline and deem it necessary to organize plot, rhythm and thoughts, I strongly believe that it should be flexible and leave me space to improvise.
When you begin to improvise, you are deep in the story and that’s usually where the pearls are found.